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A worker blows away bubbles during the cast iron seasoning process at Lodge Manufacturing on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in South Pittsburg, Tenn. The cast iron cookware manufacturer broke ground Wednesday on a new foundry. / Staff file photo

America's oldest maker of cast iron skillets is shutting down its foundries in South Pittsburg, Tennessee until April 5 as a protective measure for employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lodge Manufacturing Co.  said today it will idle production at its two South Pittsburg plants on Wednesday, although the foundries will remain open for essential operations and personnel and the company will continue to pay idled foundry workers. The cookware maker said today it will assess recommendations from local and federal governments  before production resumes.

"Through this uncertain and unprecedented time, Lodge is committed to keeping our employees healthy and safe," said Mike Otterman, president and CEO of Lodge Cast Iron. "With increasing state and federal concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, we are proactively taking more drastic measures and have made the decision to temporarily suspend production in our foundries to protect our employees and their families."

Lodge, which has nearly 400 employees, said it will compensate employees who are idled while manufacturing is suspended.

Additionally,  the company said it will continue its online support for at-home recipes, tips, tricks and cooking questions. All Lodge products will still be available for sale on www.lodgemfg.com with free shipping for online purchases through March 29 and Lodge will continue to service its retail customer base.

Founded by Joseph Lodge in 1896, Lodge is the oldest family-owned cast iron cookware manufacturer in America. Lodge produces the largest full line of cast iron cookware in its two South Pittsburg, Tenn. 

The company completed a $90 million expansion — the biggest in the company's 124-year history -- in 2017.

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